CNNMoney: News flash! It's still a sluggish recovery! Remember when market bears and some naysayer economists were shouting "Double-dip recession!" from the rooftops just last month after some tepid jobs data? Pay them no mind.

CNNMoney: Obama talks jobs via Twitter "We the People" became more like "We the Tweeple" on Wednesday, as President Obama answered questions about the still-sluggish job market and broader economy in his first-ever Twitter town hall.

CNNMoney: The scariest risks to the economy U.S. policymakers are racing to reach an agreement before the debt ceiling is breached. But the biggest risks to the U.S. economy are mostly out of their hands.

Yellin presses Obama on debt ceiling Newly-anointed chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin questions Pres. Obama on a debt ceiling deal and deadline.

The number that's killing the economy This is the only number that matters: 350.

Glastonbury tax activists target 'hypocritical' U2 U2 frontman Bono is usually lauded as one of the world's most vocal anti-poverty campaigners but at Glastonbury Festival on Friday he instead found himself the target of criticism at his band's alleged efforts to avoid paying millions of euros in taxes.
In The Capitalist Welfare State, Lund University economist Andreas Bergh explains how Sweden has managed to increase economic productivity despite its large public sector.

Bergh says that despite popular mythology, Sweden is not a socialist success story but instead owes its economic growth to the lowered tax rates and deregulation of the early 1990s, which allowed innovation and investment to flourish. Bergh also discusses how Sweden's national voucher program revitalized the country's educational system and warns that Americans who are hoping to emulate Swedish success by growing the public sector are learning the wrong lessons from Sweden. 

As a prelude to the December Wall-Econ feature in which Dr. Hans Rosling narrated the history of global health, here is a 2006 video of the professor who discusses, at length, trends in the developing world. Using a software which he later sold to Google, Hans Rosling shows there can be no boring data with keen insights and cool visual effects. 
MacArthur winner Sendhil Mullainathan uses the lens of behavioral economics to study a tricky set of social problems -- those we know how to solve, but don't. We know how to reduce child deaths due to diarrhea, how to prevent diabetes-related blindness and how to implement solar-cell technology ... yet somehow, we don't or can't. Why?
About Sendhil Mullainathan:
To study big questions such as "What are the measurable effects of corruption?"" Sendhil Mullainathan and his collaborators look at the day-to-day decisions made by real people, running deep-data studies on groups around the world to tease out patterns. Awarded a MacArthur ""genius"" grant in 2002, he has produced and collaborated on a string of research papers that make for a must-read CV -- including a fascinating, if dispiriting, study of the corruption involved in getting a driver's license in India.

Lately he and his team have been studying women who sell fruit and vegetables on the streets in developing countries. They're usually in debt to a moneylender in the market, who takes about half their profits each day as interest. Some of the women have figured a simple way to get out of debt and keep all their profits. But most of the women make a choice every day that keeps them in debt. How would these businesswomen behave, he wondered, if the slate was wiped clean? So he got a grant, paid off their debt, and waits to see what happens next."

Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness.

About Daniel Kahneman: 
Daniel Kahneman is an eminence grise for the Freakonomics crowd. In the mid-1970s, with his collaborator Amos Tversky, he was among the first academics to pick apart exactly why we make "wrong" decisions. In their 1979 paper on prospect theory, Kahneman and Tversky examined a simple problem of economic risk. And rather than stating the optimal, rational answer, as an economist of the time might have, they quantified how most real people, consistently, make a less-rational choice. Their work treated economics not as a perfect or self-correcting machine, but as a system prey to quirks of human perception. The field of behavioral economics was born.

Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Memorial prize in 2002 for his work with Tversky, who died before the award was bestowed. In a lovely passage in his Nobel biography, Kahneman looks back on his deep collaboration with Tversky and calls for a new form of academic cooperation, marked not by turf battles but by "adversarial collaboration," a good-faith effort by unlike minds to conduct joint research, critiquing each other in the service of an ideal of truth to which both can contribute.

Aptly designed for the promise of the new administration, the Philippine Peso now takes on a chic new look that has been likened to the bank notes of the European Union. 

Most apparent in the "new generation" bills are the addition of Philippine tourist destinations and endemic wildlife. Conspicuous as well is the inclusion of the late Corazon Aquino in the P500 bill while the personalities in other denominations have been edited to look younger. 

Apart from aesthetics however, the new bank notes are also equipped with plenty additional security features such as the differently sized digits of the serial numbers, use of watermarks, security threads and embossed prints. The bills are also said to have antibacterial properties that will make the money more resilient to germ accumulation.

However, a number of flaws have been discovered in the design. First, the Philippine territory is not fully shown in the maps, leaving out some provinces such as the Batanes Group of Islands. Moreover, taxonomists also added that the scientific names of the animals were improperly written. These mistakes, critics say, are too important to neglect as these notes represent the nation and its people.

Should there be no change in plans however, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will begin circulation of the said notes by the first week of January. Twenty and fifty peso bills will be released first according to reports while higher denominations will soon follow. Meanwhile, the legal tender of the old Philippine peso is still effective up to 2014. 

For more on the new design, watch the video below.

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.

But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, DID NOT.

He stood and he hated the Whos and their noise

He hated the shrieks of the Who girls and boys

For fifty-three years he’d put up with it now--

He had to stop Christmas from coming, somehow.

He asked and he questioned the whole thing’s legality

Then his eyes brightened: he screamed “externality!

He reached for his textbooks; he knew what to do

He’d fight them with ideas from A.C. Pigou

This idea has merit, he thought in the frost

A tax that was equal to external cost

At the margin, would give all the Who girls and boys

An incentive to stop all their screaming and noise

Failing that, an injunction to make them all cease

And they’d have to pay him to have their Roast Beast.

Low costs of transacting meant that if the Whos

Were the high-value users and wanted to use

All the rights to have feasts and the rights to sing songs

Then they’d have to buy them, to right their Who wrongs

They’d buy a noise easement, if they wished to sing

Until then, the Grinch could stop the whole thing.

On Christmas Eve Night, the Grinch went to town

He stole all the presents, he took their wreaths down

He stole their Who Hash, everything for their feast!

He swiped their Who Pudding!  He swiped their Roast Beast!

He looked at his sled loaded up with Who snacks

‘Twas quite an efficient Pigovian tax!

Then late in the night, when he got to Mount Crumpit

For he’d taken the load, and he threatened to dump it

The Whos, with one voice crying out in the night

Screamed “bring back our stuff!  You haven’t the right!

“We know that we’re noisy all through Christmas Day,

But if you don’t like it, it’s you who should pay!

“For we were here first, and homesteaded the rights

To sing, to make noise, and to hang Christmas lights

“The costs of our Christmas joy helped you to save!

They were fully reflected in the price of your cave!”

“We’ll all be good neighbors, and we’ll be polite

“But you’ve done us wrong on this Christmas Eve Night!”

The Grinch was crestfallen, he knew he had lost

For he was the source of the “external” cost

He’d come to the nuisance, and yes, he was wrong

He’d now have to live with their noise and their songs

He realized that day, though, that they could be friends

His heart grew three sizes (you know how this ends)

The Whos asked the Grinch to join them in their feast

And he—he, the Grinch—carved the Roast Beast.

The holiday season brings specials galore

They teach us that Christmas can’t come from a store

Reflect, as you watch them, as day turns to night

On good economics, and property rights.

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Witness 200 countries and 200 years of history unfold before your eyes in this 4-minute video presentation by health professor Hans Rosling! Don't you wish all lectures used the same hi-tech visual?
ECONOMICS has long been known as the dismal science. But is any economist so dreary as to criticise Christmas? At first glance, the holiday season in western economies seems a treat for those concerned with such vagaries as GDP growth. After all, everyone is spending; in America, retailers make 25% of their yearly sales and 60% of their profits between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even so, economists find something to worry about in the nature of the purchases being made.

Much of the holiday spending is on gifts for others. At the simplest level, giving gifts involves the giver thinking of something that the recipient would like—he tries to guess her preferences, as economists say—and then buying the gift and delivering it. Yet this guessing of preferences is no mean feat; indeed, it is often done badly. Every year, ties go unworn and books unread. And even if a gift is enjoyed, it may not be what the recipient would have bought had they spent the money themselves.

Intrigued by this mismatch between wants and gifts, in 1993 Joel Waldfogel, then an economist at Yale University, sought to estimate the disparity in dollar terms. In a paper* that has proved seminal in the literature on the issue, he asked students two questions at the end of a holiday season: first, estimate the total amount paid (by the givers) for all the holiday gifts you received; second, apart from the sentimental value of the items, if you did not have them, how much would you be willing to pay to get them? His results were gloomy: on average, a gift was valued by the recipient well below the price paid by the giver.

From The EconomistThe most conservative estimate put the average receiver's valuation at 90% of the buying price. The missing 10% is what economists call a deadweight loss: a waste of resources that could be averted without making anyone worse off. In other words, if the giver gave the cash value of the purchase instead of the gift itself, the recipient could then buy what she really wants, and be better off for no extra cost.

Non-cash gifts from extended family were found to be least efficientPerhaps not surprisingly, the most efficient gifts (those with the smallest deadweight loss) were those from close friends and relations, while non-cash gifts from extended family were the least efficient. As the age difference between giver and recipient grew, so did the inefficiency. All of which suggests what many grandparents know: when buying gifts for someone with largely unknown preferences, the best present is one that is totally flexible (cash) or very flexible (gift vouchers).

If the results are generalised, a waste of one dollar in ten represents a huge aggregate loss to society. It suggests that in America, where givers spend $40 billion on Christmas gifts, $4 billion is being lost annually in the process of gift-giving. Add in birthdays, weddings and non-Christian occasions, and the figure would balloon. So should economists advocate an end to gift-giving, or at least press for money to become the gift of choice?

Sentimental value

There are a number of reasons to think not. First, recipients may not know their own preferences very well. Some of the best gifts, after all, are the unexpected items that you would never have thought of buying, but which turn out to be especially well picked. And preferences can change. So by giving a jazz CD, for example, the giver may be encouraging the recipient to enjoy something that was shunned before. This, and a desire to build skills, is presumably the hope held by the many parents who ignore their children's pleas for video games and buy them books instead.

Second, the giver may have access to items—because of travel or an employee discount, for example—that the recipient does not know existed, cannot buy, or can only buy at a higher price. Finally, there are items that a recipient would like to receive but not purchase. If someone else buys them, however, they can be enjoyed guilt-free. This might explain the high volume of chocolate that changes hands over the holidays.

But there is a more powerful argument for gift-giving, deliberately ignored by most surveys. Gift-giving, some economists think, is a process that adds value to an item over and above what it would otherwise be worth to the recipient. Intuition backs this up, of course. A gift's worth is not only a function of its price, but also of the giver and the circumstances in which it is given.

Hence a wedding ring is more valuable to its owner than to a jeweller, and the imprint of a child's hand on dried clay is priceless to a loving grandparent. Moreover, not only can gift-giving add value for the recipient, but it can be fun for the giver too. It is good, in other words, to give as well as to receive.

The lesson, then, for gift-givers? Try hard to guess the preferences of each person on your list and then choose a gift that will have a high sentimental value. As economists have studied hard to tell you, it's the thought that counts.

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